The real deal people
There is an essence that runs though all things, a power that is part of the divine. It unites every thing with every other thing, and so we are all at some level connected. We tap into that essence when we attempt to get closer to our gods or when we work magic. This essence is frequently called magic, although there are a variety of terms employed. A belief in this essence is an intrinsic part of Wicca.
Many Wiccans describe all energy work as magic, whether it is a practical spell, the casting of a circle, or a religious ritual. Others consider the term magic to be equivalent to spellcasting. Most Wiccans do practice spellcasting, but it is not required. Some Wiccans do not cast spells at all, and many others do it only occasionally. This site originally used magic to refer to spellcasting, but I am attempting to clarify those passages.
Modern society frequently tries to tell us that the belief in magic is superstitious and silly, and some people’s perceptions of it are. You’re never going to shoot lighting from your fingertips, nor will you win the lottery because you lit a green candle. And you’re certainly not going to become the Big Pooh-Bah of Magic because you picked up a copy of spells from some Big Name Pagan. The following quote sums it up better than I ever could:
Magick[sic] just does not work the way that people of today want it to. Magick has it’s limitations and it’s uses. It is not here to solve every aspect of life’s problems and challenges and it is not a replacement for facing and accepting your responsibilites.[sic] Magick has it’s place and the results do not come without hard work and extreme dedication to your respected traditions. The results of Magick are also not going to just present themselves to you [in] an extremely visual manner.
Magic (by whatever definition) requires dedication, concentration, and belief. If reading someone else’s spells let’s you better focus on other things, so be it, but there are just as many practitioners who write their own spells because it helps them focus on the task at hand. Moreover, a religious ritual will accomplish nothing if it means nothing to those performing it. It is not the gestures or the words that make magic effective, but the power and the will within us that these things help to evoke.
Magic works better on yourself than on other people. Some people write this off as psychological, and perhaps they are partially right. The effort you put into a spell makes you much more aware of the change you want in yourself. When the target is yourself, the target is generally more likely to also take other, non-magical actions to reach the intended goal, and this is crucial. Magic is a nudge. It is not going to find you a well-paying job if you haven’t mailed out any resumes and spend all day on the couch. That is just as unreasonable an expectation as firing lighting from your fingertips is.
The relationship between prayer, miracles, and magic is complicated. They may all ultimately stem from the same font, but they are approached by vastly different avenues. Prayer is ultimately a request, magic is a command, and miracles are events out of our control entirely, performed directly by the will of the divine. (The concept of miracles is more clear in the context of religions like Christianity, which believes in a strong distinction between the divine and the mortal. Defining miracles in a Pagan context is more problematic, and one I generally avoid.)
Certainly there are actions within Wicca that straddle definitions. However, to entirely remove the division between prayer and magic is extremely problematic. Magic is an expression of will. It requires a commanding mind to work it. It has no room for “please” and “if the Goddess wills it”, because such mentalities dilute the overall mental frame of mind. (Besides, if the Goddess wills your spell not to work, do you think she’s going to be stopped because you didn’t give her permission to interfere?) Prayers, on the other hand, require sincerity and a certain humility. It is intrinsically up to the deity addressed whether a prayer is answered. Ordering a goddess to manifest is absurd.
Some may cast a spell in the name of a certain deity, something like “In Hekate’s name, I will that..” This still involves the willpower generally associated with magic – it needs to be approached as a command that you are giving, not with the expectation that Hekate will now take care of whatever it is that you want. Moreover, you had better be sure that your magical work is, in fact, in line with Hekate’s interests. If you claim to act in the name of another, that should actually be what you’re doing. Throwing in the name of a random deity is unuseful and disrespectful, at best. (I have this image of Jesus slapping his forehead and shaking his head when Christian fundamentalists shoot abortion doctors or cheer the deaths of soldiers “in Jesus’s name.” I also envision a thought bubble over his head saying something like “Keep me out of this. This is NOT what I taught!”)